Wondering How to Raise Healthy Children? These Tips WORK!
Every parent wants their child to be as healthy and happy as possible. With chronic health issues on the rise, from asthma to allergies, doing everything we can on this front as parents is critical. But raising healthy children often feels like an uphill battle:
- As our lifestyles become both more hectic and more sedentary, childhood obesity rates are rising.
- So are rates of everything from diabetes to joint pain and even heart disease (!).
- Not to mention stress-related mood disorders, and mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.
No wonder parents are constantly on the lookout for tips on raising healthy kids!
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Of course, if your child has a serious, chronic medical condition, you need to get that checked out and diagnosed as soon as possible, and work with your family physician to manage the condition as best you can.
(Note: I’m not a medical doctor, and this post is NOT meant as a substitute for consulting your own family doctor or pediatrician.)
But as someone who’s long made living a healthy lifestyle a personal priority, I can promise you that there are things WITHIN your control, as a parent, to give your kid the best possible chance of growing up healthy and strong.
A lot of these tips for raising healthy children are common-sense if you stop and think about them. But that doesn’t mean they’e not worth repeating. So here goes:
Originally published May 10, 2019; last updated October 2020.
Raising Healthy Children: 4 Basic Tips for Keeping Your Kids Healthy
1. Feed them right
I’ve seen a lot of diet fads come and go. First everything had to be low-calorie. Then sugar-free. Next was low-fat. Then low-carb. It’s hard to know what to believe, let alone what to eat!
But there is one thing that most leading nutrition experts will agree upon: a lot of our modern health woes seem to correlate with the huge shift in our diets toward processed and pre-made foods. Health professionals overwhelmingly agree that processed and pre-made foods are at the heart of many modern health problems, from rising obesity rates to increasing numbers of children with diabetes, joint problems, asthma, and even heart disease!
Processed and “ready-to-eat” foodstuffs are more available now than they’ve ever been before. And it’s so tempting to stock up on these in order to save time and energy when cooking.
But you can’t ignore that many of these “convenience” foods – even those that are ready for you to cook at home – are loaded with extra salt, sugar, preservatives, and other ingredients you and your kids don’t need.
Instead of fast food or processed/packaged goods from the store, try as much as you can to eat just homemade meals that come from real food. By cooking your own meals from scratch with fresh ingredients, you’ll know exactly what your family is eating.
2. Make sure they’re active
Some kids love sports and the great out-of-doors; others would rather curl up inside with their books or Legos. I was definitely the latter when growing up, but I’ve learned the value over time of staying active. Because of this, I do whatever I can to help my kids get plenty of exercise and fresh air.
Kids benefit from staying active in so many ways:
Besides building lifelong healthy habits, teaching your children to be active will help them
- maintain a healthy weight and healthy bodies while they grow and develop;
- get them vitamin D (important for bone growth) as well as some fresh air;
- give them opportunities to explore, problem-solve, learn teamwork, and develop self-confidence;
- and help them to learn to love and protect the world around them.
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Even better, spending family time outdoors is a great way to bond with your children.
For example, my husband and I both love cycling and camping. As soon as we could, we introduced the girls to these pastimes. They completed their first charity bike ride with Daddy last summer while I was at a conference, and have now led the pack for two weeks in a row at their Girl Scout troop cycling nights. And they cannot wait both to camp with us and our friends this summer, but also to return to sleepaway Girl Scout camp.
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Depending on their interests, there are so many different forms of physical activity your child could enjoy. Don’t give up until you find something they like; their current and future health and well-being depend upon it!
3. Maintain a regular (sleep) schedule
Kids thrive on routine. Knowing what to expect, and when to expect it, gives them a sense of security and well-being that helps them grow into well-rounded, grounded individuals who are emotionally healthy.
Regular mealtimes are a good place to start. Try to keep meals and snacks at the same times every day; learn what your child’s school schedule is, and be prepared to feed them at roughly the same times on days when school’s not in session.
Maintaining set meal times can also help to ensure that your child has stable blood sugar throughout the day, and decrease the chances that they’ll get super-picky about their food. (If they’re hungry, they’ll eat. One reason we always start our meals with vegetables, since we know that starting hunger will power them through this course.)
But a predictable schedule is especially important when it comes to sleep. Getting enough sleep is critical for overall health and well-being, and it’s especially important for children who still have a lot of growing to do. Children who are sleep-deprived
- can’t function as well at school,
- have a harder time regulating their moods and appetite,
- are at greater risk for becoming obese,
- and are just generally not fun to be around.
Again, take my word on this one, as a parent who’s been there. Sleep-deprived kiddos are more likely to lash out, act without thinking first, have tantrums, and have difficulty completing even the most basic tasks.
And remember that HOW and WHEN your child winds down for bed are both important!
Too much bright light in the evenings can really mess with our natural circadian rhythms and hormonal cycles. So can having different sleep and wake times from day to day.
So do whatever it takes to make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep. Because this has long been an area of interest in our household, I’ve written several posts on how to get your kids to go to sleep, including things you can try when all else has failed. (I’ve also written posts on how to get more sleep as a parent of little ones, and a post especially on better sleep for parents of newborns.)
4. Stock your first aid kit, just in case
Even if you do everything else by the book, your child WILL be under the weather from time to time. In that case, you need to make sure you’ve got a stash of at-home over-the-counter remedies on hand, to deal with whatever life throws at them.
If you’ve got an infant at home, I cannot recommend the Little Remedies starter kit highly enough. It’s the one thing I never thought to register for, but wish I had – so much so, that it’s now my favorite gift for first-time parents.
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For older kids, besides basic first-aid items (bandages, antibiotic ointments, digital thermometer/probe covers), you’ll of course want some child-friendly meds around. Think kid versions of fever reducers, cough remedies, decongestants, and basic allergy medicines (diphenhydramine, aka Benadryl). If you have a child who’s prone to motion-sickness, some kid-friendly Dramamine chewables in your car are also a good idea.
If you use diphenhydramine at home regularly to combat itchiness, swelling, and other histamine reactions to allergies and bug bites, we’ve found it’s a lot cheaper to ✅ buy online in the 16-oz size. This will save you a ton over getting it at your local pharmacy or grocery store.
And don’t forget those less-obvious things for your home medicine kit.
For example, a stool softener. Constipated children are not fun to deal with. Anything from a few days of junk food (think Halloween candy, Christmas cookies, and end-of-year school parties) can mess with their internal plumbing. So can all the disruptions of travel. Having some kid-friendly stool softener already in your medicine cabinet will save you a trip to the store later.
Or, if you keep polyethlyene glycol [Miralax] on hand for the grown-ups in your house, check with your pediatrician about appropriate dosage of this flavorless powdered stir-in for your kiddos. As we’ve found, this can come in especially handy when you’re away from home and off your normal routine.
And of course, keep all these “goodies” locked up, high and out of reach, when not in use. The last thing you want is to have to take your kiddo to the emergency room, just because they got into the medicine cabinet and started exploring!`
What’s your #1 tip for how to raise healthy children? Let us know in the comments!
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